From Iceland — Presidential Candidates: Halla Tómasdóttir

Presidential Candidates: Halla Tómasdóttir

Published May 9, 2024

Presidential Candidates: Halla Tómasdóttir

In light of the upcoming Icelandic presidential elections, we reached out to all candidates for answers to our pressing questions. Here is what one of them said.

 Halla Tómasdóttir

Please provide your name, age and current occupation.

Halla Tómasdóttir, 55 years of age, CEO of the B Team (on leave of absence) and a candidate for the Presidency of Iceland.

Why do you want to be president?  

I believe that Iceland can be an impressive role model regarding peace, prosperity and the wellbeing of people and the planet. A small nation can have influence far beyond its size. I would like to take part in that process.

Why should people vote for you for president rather than another candidate? 

I think that the Icelandic people might vote for me because I am a people’s person and a doer. I love interacting with people and hearing what they have to say. I have repeatedly turned words into action in issues relating to education, equality, and environmental and social responsibilities.

I think that the president can play an important role in opening discussions about fundamental issues that are not “party-political” — issues that are of key importance, like the effect of social media on the mental health of young people; the development of Iceland as a tourist destination; the importance of cooperation between arts and sciences; the role and development of Artificial Intelligence; and so on and on. I think that a democratic society must have a forum for public discussions. The president is in a prime position to create such a forum.

I am used to bringing people together to create a dialogue and cooperation between groups with different interests and agendas. I will use that experience to create a forum for discourse, to give people a voice and opportunity to seek solutions to many pressing problems of our times. I will use my extensive international network to catalyse transformative partnerships to find solutions that the world needs. This can open up possibilities to create exciting job opportunities, economic growth and social progress.

I know that I can do this. It is the logical continuation of my job with the B Team for the past six years. Earlier, I was one of the founders of the “Anthill” that organised the National Assembly in November 2009. There 1500 randomly selected representatives of the Icelandic nation worked together in the wake of the financial collapse to discern what values and principles to rebuild our society on. It was a memorable and beautiful event. The values that emerged were “Integrity, Equality, Justice, Respect and Responsibility.” I see these as the “moral compass” that Icelanders have chosen. This compass should set the course for the development of society. 

What is the role of the president and how will you fulfil it? 

I think that the President’s role is to provide a sense of unity in the nation; to be a person the nation trusts and is proud of; a representative of the Icelandic people internationally; and the non-party-political head of state who has a  fundamental understanding of our Constitution and can step in should circumstance demand.

What is not the role of the president? 

It is not the role of the President to take a party-political stand or further her/his own interests.

If elected, what would be your first order of business as president? 

I would host a National Assembly, akin to the one in 2009, to set the nation’s moral compass. I would take care to involve both young and old, all generations should be heard.

If elected, would you put a cap on how many terms you would foresee yourself serving? 

I believe that it is not healthy for leaders to be in power for a long time. Power can negatively affect even the well-intended. I think the three terms should be the limit.

What are your views on the Presidential veto powers?  

I prefer to refer to Article 26 as the President’s right to appeal. If the Parliament passes a bill of law that the President deems, on due consideration, to be at odds with the interests and will of the people, he has a constitutional right – some might say an obligation – to refer it to a national vote – a referendum. The people have the final say.

I think that this is an important function, set in the Constitution for a reason, and should be used with utmost care.

In what circumstances do you think is appropriate to use presidential veto powers? 

See above. The President must be able to recognize bills of law that may have severe long-term consequences and raise people’s awareness in such cases. The final say should always lie with the people of Iceland.

What are your thoughts on constitutional reform? 

I agree with the notion that the Constitution needs to be amended. In 1944 it was adopted on the assumption that a thorough revision would take place at the earliest convenience. Some important amendments have been made, especially regarding human rights, but much still needs to be done. Some paragraphs of the Constitution are archaic and almost unintelligible.

I regret that the process to initiate a thorough revision of the Constitution in 2010 came to a halt. It was a remarkable democratic process that aroused international attention.

If elected, how do you envision your interactions with other heads of state? 

While I am primarily interested in bringing Icelanders together in a dialogue and serving the people of Iceland, I recognise the immense importance of international relations. With the B Team I have communicated with leaders of the highest rank, and know that this experience can serve me and my country well. I am sure that Iceland can take part in important international discourse and actions, not least on issues pertaining to peace, equal rights, environmental responsibilties, and technological and artistic progress. Enormous potential lies there, and the President is in a position to open doors and facilitate transnational cooperation.

If you have a spouse/partner, how active do they envision themselves during your time at Bessastaðir? 

My husband, Björn Súlason, is trained as a “healthy chef” who recently founded his own business marketing Nordic nutrition products in the US market. He is passionate about people’s health and wellbeing and would continue to make that his agenda. I am sure that he is prepared to assist in any way,  but I hope that he would occasionally cook a meal for selected guests, because he is such a gifted chef.

Which former president would you aspire to emulate and why? 

I think that I could learn from them all, but to me Vigdís Finnbogadóttir stands close to my heart. She has been such a role model and influence, not least through my formative years as a girl and young woman. She has inspired me and my leadership all along, and I admire how she promoted gender equality and environmental responsibility. She also raised attention to the importance of languages – all languages – and the Icelandic language and culture in particular.

This article includes the full responses of one presidential candidate. Click here to see what the other candidates said.

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